MLB: New York Mets at Cleveland Indians

Game recap April 15: Mets slug four home runs, bullpen narrowly avoids blowing save

The Mets opened their nine-game road trip with Bartolo Colon squaring off against the team that he came up with way back in 1993.  In an effort to stimulate the sluggish Met offense, Terry Collins elevated Michael Conforto to the third  spot in the batting order, and the move paid dividends as Conforto blasted a two-out, solo home run in the first inning to give the Mets an early lead. Bartolo Colon was unable to hold that lead for long, however, as he allowed the Indians to tie the game in the bottom half on a Jason Kipnis double and a single from Mike Napoli.

Both Colon and Indians starter Cody Anderson got into and wiggled out of trouble through the second, third and fourth innings. Neil Walker tried to score from first on a double from Asdrubal Cabrera in the second, but was ruled out on review. The Indians, meanwhile, had a Carlos Santana  home run overturned and consistently had men on base, but could not score.

Alejandro De Aza led off the fifth inning and started the breakout we’ve all been waiting for from the Met offense. De Aza took a 2-1 fastball on the outer part of the plate over the high left field wall for his first hit as a Met, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. Curtis Granderson and David Wright would fly out and strike out before Michael Conforto beat the shift with a swinging bunt single down the left field line to extend the inning. Yoenis Cespedes then showed off his prodigious strength, blasting a curveball down and out of the zone out to right center field, his second home run of the season.

Now with a 4-1 lead, the Mets weren’t done. Lucas Duda hit a hard ground ball through the left side of the infield to chase Cody Anderson from the game. Former National lefty Ross Detwiler entered and promptly surrendered a long  home run  to Neil Walker, Walker’s first right handed homer since 2014. It was also  the Mets first three home run inning on the road since 2006.  By the time Travis d’Arnaud struck out to finally end the frame, the Mets were leading 6-1.

Colon would immediately give one of those runs back, as Rajai Davis led off with a single and Jason Kipnis smoked a double over the head of De Aza in center field. Colon wouldn’t let the Indians get any closer, however, striking out Mike Napoli and Francisco Lindor and inducing a fly out from Carlos Santana to strand Kipnis at second and keep the Met lead at four runs.

De Aza added another hit with a leadoff double in the top of the sixth, but was stranded at third. In the bottom of the sixth, a throwing error from David Wright put Yan Gomes at first with nobody out. Juan Uribe would follow with a double two batters later to put runners at second and third and chase Colon from the game. Much to everyone’s surprise, Terry Collins did not call for Jim Henderson, instead bringing in Antonio Bastardo, who wiggled out of the jam with a strike out and a fly out.

The Mets had another leadoff double in the seventh when Cespedes lined a ball into the right center field gap, but were once again unable to score a run. Bastardo would return for the bottom half of the frame and induced a ground out from Jason Kipnis before striking out Francisco Lindor. Hansel Robles then entered, and surrendered a double and a walk before ending the inning with a strikeout of Gomes.

In the eighth, the Mets would again have a runner thrown out at the plate. De Aza singled to start the inning ahead of Curtis Granderson, who singled on a soft line drive to right-center. De Aza was running on the pitch and Tim Teufel, perhaps hoping to catch the Indians napping, waved him in. Jason Kipnis was wide awake and gunned him out at the plate for his second assist on a relay of the game. The Mets weren’t finished in the inning, putting runners on second and third with one out, but they once again failed to score.

The bottom of the eighth was quiet, as Addison Reed worked around a two out single to send the game to the ninth with the Mets still leading by four. Likewise in the top of the ninth, when Dan Otero retired the Mets in order. Again to the surprise of Mets fans, Collins chose not to abuse Jeurys Familia even further and left Addison Reed in for the ninth. Jason Kipnis hit a leadoff single, but Reed got the next two batters with some help from De Aza on a diving play in left field. But the Indians refused to go quietly, and Carlos Santana squeaked a two-run home run out to center field  to trim the Mets’ lead to two and prompt Collins to bring in Familia.

Appearing in his fourth straight game, Familia’s velocty was a couple ticks lower than usual, sitting 93 or 94 mph, though he was able to touch 97. Gomes singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Marlon Byrd muscled a broken bat hit into right center to score Gomes  from second and cut the lead to one. Juan Uribe followed with a walk, and suddenly the tying run was at second for the Indians. Mercifully, Jose Ramirez flew out to left field, and the Mets escaped with a 6-5 game.

The offensive  breakout is definitely a positive sign, as was Bartolo Colon notching his 219th  win, tied with Pedro Martinez for second most among Dominican born pitchers. It is more than a bit worrying, however, that the Mets bullpen has been so overworked early in the season. Why Rafael Montero has not been used since his call up is a mystery, though perhaps those familiar with Terry Collins’s incompetence with regard to bullpen management are probably unsurprised. Regardless, a win is a win, so we can only complain so much.

Photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA Today Sports

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